Tag Archives: sports figures

Major Taylor Champion Cyclist

Written by: Lesa Cline-Ransome

Illustrated by: James E. Ransome

For ages: 6-10 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Historic Figure, Historical Events, Sports Figures, Civil Rights, Racism, Trailblazer. 

Summary: Set in Victorian times, this book covers the life of Marshall Taylor, later known as Major Taylor.  When Marshall was 8, he was hired by a rich white family to be a companion for their only son.  Marshall lived a great life, getting education and material goods that were not often received when a person of color so soon after the Civil War.  The year is not exact, but the opening scenes of the book is somewhere around late 1880’s, early 1890’s.  Marshall goes one day, at age 13, to a bike shop to get something fixed so he can finish his paper route.  Upon leaving, he does some tricks and gets noticed by the two shop owners.  They offer him a job cleaning the shop and doing tricks for customers, and even throw in a new bike to sweeten the deal!  Marshall agrees, and wears a military style jacket when doing tricks, earning him the nickname Major Taylor.  The shop owners ask if he wants to be in a bicycle race one day, even though he protests he ends up racing and wins!  Continuing to work at the shop, Marshall befriends the famous cyclists that come in.  Louis “Birdie” Munger is a patron of the shop, and asks Marshall to move to Worcester, Massachusetts with him and train to be a professional cyclist.  Marshall agrees, and began to train.  When he’s 18, he’s officially a professional cyclist.  Marshal begins to tour, and begins to see the racism and segregation that was so common around the United States.  However, Marshall was the only African-American member of the League of American Wheelmen and competed wherever he wanted.  Because of this though, Marshall had troubles with other cyclists who were racist and wanted him out of the competition.  During races, they would gang up on him and try to force him to lose.  Because of this, Marshall became skilled at weaving in and out among racers and it only made him a better rider.  The press called him The Black Whirlwind and he was famous!  He became the World Champion in 1899.  A few years later, Marshall became good friends with Edmond Jacquelin the 1900 World Champion and they decided to race against each other.  Marshall loses the first race, but a rematch is scheduled.  Major Taylor wins!!

This book covers in-depth the life and career of Marshall Taylor, one of the world’s greatest cyclists and a trailblazer of integrating the sport of cycling.  Given opportunities not afforded the majority of the African-American community, he was able to show the world that athletic talent is talent, regardless of race.

Reflection Questions:

  • What is your favorite sport?
  • How do you think Major Taylor felt when he was the subject of attacks just because of his race?
  • How can you stand up for someone that you see being bullied?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Think about your favorite sport.  Learn about when it became integrated, and who the trailblazers were that made desegregation happen.  What were some hardships encountered, and how did this historical figure react to the challenges faced?
  • Try a new sport that has always interested you.  Snowshoeing, kayaking, football, whatever you can think of!  What are some things you need in order to play the sport, and is it accessible for everyone?  If no, brainstorm different ways to make the sport able to be played and enjoyed by everyone!
  • Contact a professional cyclist and see if they will visit your classroom.  Ask questions about what they do to train, what a race is like, and if they have a lot of bikes!  How is being a professional cyclist the same and different as other professional athletes?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

lesa_nolaLesa Cline-Ransome grew up in Malden, MA, a suburb just outside of Boston, the daughter of two nurses and the youngest of three. She considers consider herself very lucky to have grown up with a mother who loved to read. Each week Lesa’s Mom would take Lesa with her to our local library so that she could stock up on books. As Lesa grew older she would venture off into the children’s section and gather up her own collection to check out. Through her mother Lesa realized that reading could become a wonderful escape and writing even more so. When her mother gave Lesa a diary as a gift, she first filled the pages with the “very important” details of her life—adventures with her friends, secret crushes and the many ways in which her family drove her crazy. Then Lesa began creating her own stories! Lesa became interested in children’s books the year she married. Her husband, James was working on illustrating his first book which allowed both of them to look at picture books in a new way. When they’d browse books in bookstores, he studied the illustrations, she read the stories. Lesa eventually completed a graduate degree in elementary education and through coursework became truly immersed in children’s literature.

james-e-ransome-1261135The Children’s Book Council named James E. Ransome as one of seventy-five authors and illustrators everyone should know. Currently a member of the Society of Illustrators, Ransome has received both the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration and the IBBY Honor Award for his book, The Creation. He has also received a Coretta Scott King Honor Award for Illustration forUncle Jed’s Barbershop which was selected as an ALA Notable Book and is currently being shown as a feature on Reading Rainbow. How Many Stars in the Sky? and Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt were also Reading Rainbow selections. PBS’s Storytime featured his book, The Old Dog. Ransome has exhibited works in group and solo shows throughout the country and received The Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance award for his book, The Wagon. In 1999 Let My People Go received the NAACP Image Award for Illustration and Satchel Paige was reviewed in Bank Street College of Education’s “The Best Children’s Books of the Year.” In 2001, James received the Rip Van Winkle Award from the School Library Media Specialists of Southeast New York for the body of his work.  How Animals Saved the People received the SEBA (Southeastern Book Association) Best Book of the Year Award in 2002 and the Vermont Center for the Book choseVisiting Day as one of the top ten diversity books of 2002.  In 2004 James was recognized by the local art association when he received the Dutchess County Executive Arts Award for an Individual Artist.  He has completed several commissioned murals for the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis, The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the Hemphill Branch Library in Greensboro, NC. He created a historical painting commissioned by a jury for the Paterson, NJ Library and a poster for the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Brown vs the Board of Education.  His traveling Exhibit, Visual Stories has been touring the United States since 2003.  His work is part of both private and public children’s book art collections.

Unstoppable: How Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team Defeated Army

Written by: Art Coulson

Illustrated by: Nick Hardcastle

For ages: 6-10 years

Language: English 

Topics Covered: Indigenous Voices, Boarding Schools, Historical Events, Historical Figures, Sports, Courage, Bravery. 

Summary: This book opens at a boarding school in Lawrence Kansas, where a young boy meets his hero football team.  This boy has two names- his Sauk name is Wa-tho-huk which means Bright Path, and his English boarding school name is Jim Thorpe.  He wants more than anything to play on this football team, but right now he’s skinny and only 12.  Jim did’t like the Haskell boarding school he went to, and often ran away.  Finally when he was 16, his father sent him to the Carlisle Industrial School where he hoped Jim would learn a job trade and settle down.

The board schools that native children were forced to attend wanted to assimilate them into Euro-American culture, often burning their traditional clothes and forcing them to speak English.  Their hair was cut short and they would be beaten for breaking the rules.

While at Carlisle, Jim had a job at a nearby farm to earn extra money.  He was walking back to school from the farm one day when he saw the track team practicing high jump and asked to join trying to make it over the bar.  The team laughed at him, but Jim made it over!  He didn’t think anything of it, and continued on his way.  Later that day, Jim was called to the office and told he just broke the school record for high jump, and was handed a uniform.  He was on the team now! He practiced and practiced, and begged the coach to put him on the varsity football team.  Jim played for two seasons before leaving school to play baseball and help take care of his siblings.  The coach convinced Jim to come back so he could help him train for the 1912 Olympics, where he became the first Native American to win several events and gold medals, until someone stole his shoes (presumably to keep him from continuing to win).  He found a pair of mismatched ones in the trash and won another gold medal!  The Carlisle team continued to travel and play football games, and went into West Point for the game against the Army undefeated.  The Carlisle team played some new plays, and managed to beat the Army team 27-6!

This book contains a huge amount of information, not just about that exciting football game!  It chronicles most of Jim Thorpe’s life, and there is extra biographical information  in the back, along with other players’ information that were also on the team at the time of the football game against the Army, including what tribes they were from, which we consider incredibly important!  Reading level required for a child to read by themselves is elementary, there are lots of pages and a lot of information on each page.

Reflection Questions:

  • Which famous football players have you heard of?
  • Why do you think some children were forced to go to boarding schools?
  • How do you think they felt when they weren’t allowed to retain any of their home culture at school?
  • Would you like to ever be a famous athlete, or go to the Olympics?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Learn more about the Carlisle team as a whole.  Who else went on to become a famous athlete like Jim?  Find any books that you can, or some videos that go into more detail about boarding school football teams around that time.
  • Design your own football team!  Draw uniforms, a mascot, and a logo.  Where does your team play?  What makes your football team members special?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

art4webArt Coulson is a Navy brat, born in Honolulu, where he lived for his first 7 months. Art and his family moved often, sometimes more than once a year. Art attended 14 different schools on three continents before he graduated high school.

Art’s first children’s book, The Creator’s Game, a story about a young lacrosse player, was published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press in 2013. His most recent book, Unstoppable, a story about the great American Indian athlete Jim Thorpe, was published by Capstone in August 2018.

Before writing children’s books, Art was a writer and editor at magazines and newspapers all over the United States. After his journalism career, Art served as the first executive director of the Wilma Mankiller Foundation in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

Now, Art lives in Minneapolis with his family, but still plays traditional Cherokee stickball, an original version of lacrosse, when he is visiting friends and relatives in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma several times a year.

Nick-hardcastle-Portrait-300x211Nick Hardcastle is the illustrator. Since studying illustration and graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1981, he has worked continuously as an artist and illustrator. Clients are diverse and they span many fields including Advertising, Design, Publishing, Exhibition Displays and Editorial.

The medium he primarily uses is pen and ink and watercolour. This enables him to deliver a high level of detail and realism to any commission. Nick is adaptable to all your illustration requirements-whether it’s for a portrait, brochure, book, historical scene, or as part of an editorial.

The United States v. Jackie Robinson

Written by: Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

Illustrated by: R. Gregory Christie

For ages: 5-10 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Historical Figures, Military History, Sports Figures, Civil Rights.

Summary: Before we knew Jackie Robinson as the first African-American Major League Baseball player, he served in the military.  Jackie grew up in California, during segregation.  His family was the only family of color on their street, and once their neighbors even started a petition to make them leave.  His mother resisted, and taught her children to always stand up for what was right.  Jackie was a phenomenal athlete, and one of the best college football players in the country.  Unfortunately, his knee was injured because of constantly being tackled by teammates even when he didn’t have the ball.

When Jackie Robinson was first in the military, it was still racially segregated.  This means he and the other soldiers of color had separate places to sit, eat, and live.  While he was still serving, the military outlawed segregation!  This meant that now Jackie and his other soldiers were integrated with the rest of the soldiers, specifically the white ones.  Unfortunately, things did not change overnight.  One day, Jackie was ordered to the back of the bus by the driver so a white soldier could sit down.  Jackie refused.  Even though the military had been desegregated, Robinson was taken to court by the military police.  Jackie must remember what his mother taught him, about standing up for what’s right even when it’s difficult.

This is a great book to cover a not-so-distant time in American history, as well as one of the most well-known sports figures.  This isn’t a well-known case either, and it is important for children to know how influential and strong Jackie Robinson was.

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you heard of Jackie Robinson before?
  • What’s your favorite sport to play?
  • Jackie was very brave to stand up for what was right.  What can you do that’s brave, to help people too?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Learn more about historic Civil Rights cases.  What is a case that particularly inspires you?  What can you learn from the past that can help marginalized communities today?
  • Jackie Robinson was the first MLB player of color.  Who are the other major sports heroes of color that broke barriers?  Did any of them go through anything like Jackie did when he was in the military?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

sudipta bardhan-quallenIn 2001, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen was well on her way to not being a writer. She had graduated from the California Institute of Technology in 1998 with a BS in Biology, spent a year in Boston, and then had returned to Caltech as a PhD candidate in developmental biology. That’s when she had her first child, Isabella. Bella’s birth didn’t change Sudipta’s plans – she thought she’d take a long maternity leave then return to graduate school. Then, her daughter Brooklyn came along. With two small children, Sudipta found herself less interested in biology as she was in parenting. And for the first time, she found that she had stories to tell, stories she wanted to share with her daughters, and she decided to try to get published. After a half-dozen rejections, in 2003, Sudipta sold her first story to a children’s magazine, Highlights for Children. Using her science background as a springboard, Sudipta began writing nonfiction for children, including Championship Science Fair Projects, Last Minute Science Fair Projects, AIDS, and Autism. She branched out into other nonfiction, including biographies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Jane Goodall, and altogether, Sudipta has written 18 nonfiction books for kids.

R. Gregory ChristieIllustrator and freelance artist Richard Gregory Christie was born on July 26, 1971 in Plainfield, New Jersey to Ludra V. St. Amant Christie and Gerard Adoltus Christie. Raised by his mother, a Louisiana Creole, and his father, a Jamaican pharmacist, Christie was raised in the Scotch Plains community of Plainfield near the Jerseyland Resort. He attended St. Bartholomew the Apostle Elementary School where he demonstrated a talent for art early on. In 1985, Christie worked for Commercial Art and Supply while he attended Fanwood High School. Graduating in 1989, he enrolled in New York City’s School for Visual Arts (SVA). His first illustration was published by the Star Ledger in the summer of 1990. In 1993, Christie graduated from SVA with his B.F.A. degree. In 1994, Christie illustrated the album cover of Justice System’s Summer in the City. Soon, his work graced the covers of jazz labels from all over the world, including Joe Sample’s Old Places Old Faces Warner Brothers, 1996; George Benson’s A Song for my Brother Giant Step Records, 1997; and Coltrane The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings GRP Impulse, 1997. Christie’s’ illustrations also appeared in numerous publications in Europe, Asia and America. In 1996, he illustrated Lucille Clifton’s The Palm of My Heart; Poetry by African American Children. The book won a Coretta Scott King Award honor from the American Library Association and a Reading Magic Award from Parenting magazine. Christie has illustrated the biographies of many other significant historical and cultural figures, including Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, and Sojourner Truth. In 2006, he won a Coretta Scott King Award honor for Brothers in Hope ; The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan, and for illustrating Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth.
Currently, Christie is a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine.